Warrnambool's key role in 'Waltzing Matilda' stage musical

WARRNAMBOOL takes centre stage in a new musical The Man They Call The Banjo — with one scene set on a staircase of the city’s grand, long-gone Ozone Hotel.

The story of Waltzing Matilda and the secret love affair between Banjo Patterson and Christina Macpherson, the woman who supplied the tune for the iconic song, will be told in a show by Felix Meagher and Dennis O’Keeffe when it comes to the south-west in March.

“While the affair between Banjo and Christina remained secret for 100 years, the relationship had a public outcome of national and international significance — the composition of Australia’s favourite song, Waltzing Matilda,” said playwright and composer Felix Meagher.

“Two of the scenes are set in the south-west. One where the heroine of the tale, Christina Macpherson, sings the robust Scottish song Craigielee on a staircase at the Ozone Hotel, Warrnambool. The second scene is where Sarah Riley (Banjo’s fiancee) describes her friendship with Christina, and recounts the experiences she and Christina enjoyed and endured while at finishing school in Melbourne. 

“The scene sets up the bitter scenes that follow where two women fight for the affections of Banjo,” he said.

The show is based on Mr O’Keeffe’s research, recently published as a book, and he has a role in the play as the squatter Robert McPherson.

Melbourne-based producer Wolf Hediecker said the musical encompassed raw emotion and historical significance to interest all ages.

“The story is one of Australia’s great love stories, and it is set in a time and place when Australia was as close as it has ever been to civil war,” he said. 

Cory Corbett, a Melbourne actor and film festival producer, will play the role of Banjo surrounded by beautiful and powerful women.

The south-west shows are the second stage of development for the musical, which will go on to a national tour in 2014.

Performances will be on March 6 at Flagstaff Hill in Warrnambool; March 7 at Cole’s Woolshed, Camperdown; and March 9 and 10 at the Port Fairy Folk Festival.

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